Conservation officers from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks cited one of the agency’s own leaders recently—commissioner Leonard Bentz—for illegally hunting turkeys over bait at the end of March. Bentz bait of choice? Crickets. 

Bentz and his son were part of a group hunting on a 500-acre plot where the landowner had released crickets a few days before the hunt started. Bentz claims he did not know crickets had been released to attract turkeys. 

“Goes to show our law enforcement officers do not give favors regardless of positions or titles,” wrote Bentz in an email exchange with SuperTalk Mississippi Media. “I would like to apologize for putting our conservation officers in this unfortunate situation and I appreciate what they do to protect our resources. Integrity is not just spoken or written words, it is measured by actions taken.” 

Bentz is in his second term as a state wildlife commissioner. His term is set to end in June of 2028, but reconfirmation of his post by the state senate this May could be in jeopardy. 

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“There’s no reason to fight the citation because I admittedly did briefly hunt the property and I will pay the citation as soon as it is turned into justice court,” Bentz wrote to The Daily Leader.  

By Mississippi law, it is illegal to bait wild birds while hunting or trapping. The penalty for killing a turkey out of season or over bait could be up to $500 and jail time. Turkeys are particularly fond of bugs as food in the spring but will eat them year round. Their diet includes beetles, hoppers and yes, crickets.